They say the difference between comedy and tragedy is two points in Scrabble. They say that the difference between an audience laughing with a performer and at them is about two glasses of wine. But what do they know that Myra doesn’t? This week’s letter comes all the way from the land of potatoes, poteen and EU bailouts.
Recently, I won the Twisted Crown at the World Burlesque Games. That’s nice but there’s just one problem: people laughed at me.
I mean, WTF? I, over many many months, put together a very serious art piece, an interpretive dance which was designed to garner an emotional response from the audience, not laughter.
Is it because I am “big boned”? I think it is. It’s a sad sad day when an audience basically laughs at the fat boy who is just trying to live out his dream of thundering through space. Expressing his emotions with a slight wobble factor — that’s not funny, is it? IS IT?
What should I do? I’m very disheartened. I think it might result in self-harm.
Hello Big Chief,
Are you familiar with the Roland Barthes essay, Death of the Author? It was originally written with Literature (with a capital L) in mind but I think it’s applicable to any artistic practice under the sun. In short, Barthes argues that the identity and intentions of the Author (or Artist, both with a capital A) are irrelevant to a piece of work. The power, in Barthes’ view. lies with the reader (or in our case, the audience). I agree. You may be dismayed with the audience’s response to your interpretive dance but think of it this way: a laughing audience is an engaged audience. They didn’t ignore you, they didn’t walk out. They watched you and in some way connected with what you were doing on stage. Isn’t that beautiful? So they laughed? Who cares?! I recently went to see Titanic 3D and I absolutely pissed myself. I’m sure this isn’t what James Cameron had in mind when he made the film, but I stayed in my seat and didn’t ask for a refund. That’s the main thing.
In your letter to me you bring up your physical appearance. You mention that you feel the laughter was of a mocking nature because you’re “big boned”. Cabaret has a long and rich history of embracing those who look different. Admittedly, around the turn of the twentieth century you’d have been caged up in a freak show BUT fast forward to the 1970s and the Roly Polys were the highlight of Les Dawson’s television series! Skip further forward to the present day and we have people such as Fred Bear, the Dreambears and Scottee all playing with peoples perceptions of their physicality. Jump on the bandwagon Big Chief, there’s room for your ample frame.
Failing that, try London’s gay bear scene. They’d welcome you with open arses.
Love and luck,
Image above (c) Tigz Rice
Featured image (c) Jose Farinha
Are you a cabaret performer with an itch to scratch? If that ointment from the doctor hasn’t helped, please drop an email to Myra with details of your problem via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Myra will be heading to Edinburgh Fringe this year and is holding a fundraiser on 6 June with a line-up including Scott Capurro, Jayde Adams, Audacity Chutzpah, Fancy Chance, Dusty Limits and many more. More information here.